By Tim Saunders on
Police have stopped actress Mia Farrow from holding a rally in Cambodia as part of a campaign to end atrocities in Darfur.
Around 100 baton-wielding military police blocked Farrow, who established Fund4Darfur in 2007, and her fellow activists from entering the compound at Tuol Sleng, the Phnom Penh high school at the center of Cambodia’s Killing Fields.
“Darfur has nothing to do with Cambodia,” said Phnom Penh police chief, Touch Naruth. “Go protest in Darfur!”
The group planned to hold a peaceful rally in which they were to lay flowers and light a symbolic Olympic torch in the compound. The event was to follow similar rallies in Chad, Rwanda, Armenia, Germany, and Bosnia as part of a campaign to persuade China to push the Khartoum government in Sudan into ending the violence in Darfur.
“Our hearts are breaking for what happened in Cambodia today,” said Farrow, who is on the advisory committee for the Dream For Darfur campaign. “The Chinese government was trying to prevent us from commemorating the genocide in Cambodia, and denying survivors the chance to show solidarity with the people in Darfur.”
The United Nations is currently trying to deploy a peacekeeping force in Darfur, where international experts say 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million driven from their homes during fighting between Sudan’s government and Darfur rebels. China is a major investor in Sudan’s oil industry, and has been accused by lobby groups of breaching international rules and encouraging bloodshed by selling Sudan weapons that have been diverted to Darfur.
“I grieve every day about what is happening now,” said Darfur refugee Omer Ismail, part of the group in Cambodia for the rally. “As we gather here, [there continue] the attacks, the rapes, the systematic murder of innocent men, women, and children.”
The Cambodian government has threatened Farrow and her supporters with deportation and other unspecified “consequences”.
In other news relating to Darfur, George Clooney has been named as a United Nations Messenger of Peace by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Clooney is the ninth UN Messenger, and joins Michael Douglas, Jane Goodall, Muhammad Ali, and Vijay Amritraj in helping to expand understanding of how the ideals and objectives of the UN demand everyone’s attention.
UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said Clooney had been “recognized for focusing attention on crucial international political and social issues”, especially in Darfur. Along with fellow actors Don Cheadle and Brad Pitt, Clooney, 46, has used his celebrity status to raise public awareness and money for refugees through their Not On Our Watch initiative.
Clooney is currently visiting the Sudan, and will receive his designation on January 31 at UN headquarters.
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